Senate left in limbo by Trump tweets, House delays

Senate left in limbo by Trump tweets, House delays
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Senate immigration talks are in limbo after President TrumpDonald John TrumpRosenstein expected to leave DOJ next month: reports Allies wary of Shanahan's assurances with looming presence of Trump States file lawsuit seeking to block Trump's national emergency declaration MORE tweeted Friday that Republicans should stop wasting their time negotiating with Democrats and wait until after the election to take action.

Trump predicts Republicans will be in a stronger negotiating position after what he says will be a “red wave” in November — a different forecast than the one made by many other handicappers, who see promising signs in the midterms for Democrats. 

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Republicans are deeply divided over immigration, a fact underscored by the House GOP’s decision to postpone a vote on immigration legislation until next week.

In the House, Republicans are divided over how tough to make the enforcement provisions and there’s little appetite among Democrats to help advance Trump’s get-tough approach to illegal immigration.

In the Senate, it’s not even clear there will be a vote.

Senators in both parties have been holding talks on a variety of measures that might ease concerns at the border, but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellDemocrats brush off GOP 'trolling' over Green New Deal Trump should beware the 'clawback' Congress Juan Williams: America needs radical solutions MORE (R-Ky.) earlier this year signaled his intention to move on from the divisive issue after a week of floor time had been devoted to immigration. 

Trump’s executive order ending the separation of children from their parents at the border eased pressure on Congress to find a solution, and some senators toward the end of the week were guessing media attention might move to some new controversy next week.

One Republican close to the immigration talks in the Senate predicted the chance of a bill passing before the election is “extremely unlikely” because “the pressure is off” after Trump’s order.

There’s sense among lawmakers that leadership is ready to move away from the issue if the crisis dies down.

“It’s just like what happened after the courts ruled DACA, when the negotiations then stopped,” said the GOP senator, referring to court decisions that allowed immigrants to continue to apply for work permit renewals under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which covered immigrants who came to the nation illegally as children.

Senate Republican Whip John CornynJohn CornynOn unilateral executive action, Mitch McConnell was right — in 2014 Poll shows competitive matchup if O’Rourke ran for Senate again On The Money: Trump declares emergency at border | Braces for legal fight | Move divides GOP | Trump signs border deal to avoid shutdown | Winners, losers from spending fight | US, China trade talks to resume next week MORE (Texas), who is working closely on the issue, acknowledged that there’s a lot of skepticism about Congress’s ability to pass immigration legislation. 

“Immigration is one of those topics where our track record has not been good,” he said.

Cornyn argued that Trump’s executive order doesn’t let Congress off the hook.

Trump’s executive order is likely to face legal challenges, for one thing.

A legal settlement limits the detention of children to 20 days, suggesting they would have to be separated from their parents at that time unless the guardians are also freed.

The White House has said it wants Congress to pass legislation on the issue, though Trump’s signals on recent days have repeatedly been in conflict.

The problem, seemingly as always on immigration, is that Democrats and Republicans differ on how to solve even narrow problems related to the issue.

Cornyn, for example, criticized a proposal sponsored by Sen. Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinFeinstein says she thinks Biden will run after meeting with him Trump judicial nominee Neomi Rao seeks to clarify past remarks on date rape Bottom Line MORE (D-Calif.) and supported by the entire Senate Democratic Conference to end the separation of children from their parents as inadequate.

“Her bill does nothing about enforcing the law. Instead it will reinstate this policy of catch and release, which essentially is a magnet for illegal immigration,” he said.

The Feinstein bill, he argued, would lead the administration to release adults detained for illegally crossing the border with children, under the hope they would return for court dates.

Republican and Democratic negotiators say that putting ankle monitors on illegal border crossers could be one way around this, but they are far from reaching a deal on the issue. 

Sen. Bob MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezWilliam Barr is right man for the times This week: Trump delivers State of the Union amid wall fight BuzzFeed story has more to say about media than the president MORE (N.J.), an influential Democrat in the immigration debate, floated the idea Wednesday and some Republicans say they will consider it.

“I’ve told everyone I’m open to it,” Sen. Thom TillisThomas (Thom) Roland TillisDems ready aggressive response to Trump emergency order, as GOP splinters Business, conservative groups slam Trump’s national emergency declaration GOP senator dedicates heart photo to wife from Senate floor for Valentine's Day MORE (R-N.C.) told The Hill.

Cornyn said, “That’s something we can certainly discuss.”  

Roy Beck, executive director of NumbersUSA, a group that wants to reduce immigration, said Trump’s tweet "certainly could" dampen immigration talks.

But, he added, “I don’t think the president’s executive order is going to be the last word on this.”

One Senate Republican strategist predicted that lawmakers would continue to work on legislation, but probably with less urgency.

“No question it relieves pressure that Republicans may be feeling to get something done before the election, but I also don’t think it means Republicans will stop working on it,” said the source. 

Senate negotiators still plan to meet this week in hopes of finding common ground.

Tillis and Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzEl Chapo's lawyer fires back at Cruz: 'Ludicrous' to suggest drug lord will pay for wall Democrats have a chance of beating Trump with Julian Castro on the 2020 ticket Poll shows competitive matchup if O’Rourke ran for Senate again MORE (R-Texas), two members of the Judiciary Committee, plan to meet with Feinstein and Sen. Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinDemocrats brush off GOP 'trolling' over Green New Deal Trump praises law enforcement response to shooting at Illinois business Five dead in shooting at manufacturing plant in Aurora, Illinois MORE (Ill.), the Democratic whip, this coming week to weigh various proposals.

Tillis’s office says he will go forward despite Trump’s view that legislative negotiations are a waste of time.

“Senator Tillis believes Congress must tackle our nation’s broken immigration system and produce the solutions that have eluded Washington for decades,” his office said in a statement Friday.